Prostitution Proposals (or lack of them) in the Election Manifestos

Green Party

“The Green Party supports full decriminalisation of the sex
industry. Respected research by Amnesty International and the UN has shown that it is the safest legal model for sex workers.”

Terribly poor to not recognise the huge criticisms of Amnesty’s decision, including the entry-ism involved and the rejected research and Pimp involvement. Greens are displaying themselves to not be principled at all, but political faddists, more concerned with maintaining the vote of a small band of University based ‘Gender Equality’ soldiers. In any case, hugely likely to be decimated in the next election, and to return to former obscurity. Sad really, because their tendency to try and spread themselves thin on ‘any an all topic’ means their good record on the Environment has gotten lost in the mad mix.

Liberal Democrats

“Decriminalise the sale and purchase of sex, and the management of sex work – reducing harm, defending sex workers’ human rights, and focusing police time and resources on those groomed, forced, or trafficked into the sex industry. We would provide additional support for those wishing to leave sex work.”

At least they bother to mention that ‘management’ is a factor in full industry decriminalisation, (not that it is THE factor, mind you). They don’t mention what kind of ‘additional support’ they’d provide for those who want to leave (who can be bothered?!) or tell us why they think that anyone would want to leave an industry they believe should be legitimized and industrialized. Something tells me this part of the pledge would soon get lost down the back of the sofa….but again, they seem to be falling not rising in the polls as the have been unable to establish a narrative of difference outside of Brexit, which most people seem to have decided to now ‘just get on with’, so, meh, whatever…

Labour Party

Nothing on the subject (but does have stuff on women’s refuges and instating a VAW commissioner.) Interesting. Preferable of course to the above two, as the playing field is left open. One imagines due to the fact that there is dissent on this topic within the Labour Party itself, including in the Unions (with TUC Women voting for the Nordic Model recently). Could also just be because their manifesto has focused mostly on big issues as opposed niche ones, but somehow feels like a willful omission, especially given this is John McDonnell’s hobby horse. The ECP must be spitting feathers, thinking this one was a shoo-in.


Can’t seem to find anything, and seems generally quite sparse on women more generally. Disappointing given the recent vote that showed major support for the Nordic Model. But perhaps I’m missing it, if anyone knows more, do let me know.


Obviously the most thorough examination of women’s issues of the lot, and rightly calls for the Nordic Model on prostitution. Slight bone to pick; their motivation, they say, is not to win seats so much as put pressure on the major parties to adopt their policies, which is a a good way of looking at things given the slim chance of WEP ever winning a seat in the near future. But some of their actions, such as trying to pin their leader Sophie Walker into the Shipley constituency and asking the Labour candidate to stand down, despite the fact that she is an unknown quantity in that region… compared to the Labour candidate who came second against the MRA Tory MP Phillip Davies, and is likely to have a wider appeal. Walker said she felt Labour believed they have ‘a monopoly on virtue’, but it rather seems more likely that people are just very anxious to try and unseat Tories. This all tinged a little of political, personal opportunism and rather let them down.

Plaid Cymru

Nothing. To be fair to them it seems a party mostly concerned with more general Welsh issues and representation (but is good on the Environment and EU stuff) but a little sparse compared to the other manifestos in other places.


Nothing to see here.

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Sex Worker Voices?

We have to listen to Sex Worker’s Voices. Quite who ‘We’ are and quite who ‘They’ are has yet to be solidly established. I guess on the surface the We is anyone who happens to be having any kind of discussion about prostitution, who has never been paid to flap about in gaudy knickers or been infiltrated by other folk’s body parts, at any stage in their pearl clutching, blue stocking, dry cunting lives.

Even if that discussion isn’t happening whilst your hovering over a bit of legislation. Even if your casually chatting in your back garden, with your feminist mates – who all hate sex – and who perpetually wear a  special form of mosquito net to prevent so-called ‘Men’ from touching their damsel flesh. Yes whilst you are having that oh so praxis garden party and you veer on to the topic of prostitution, a Sex Worker will be shipped over the wall – much like as happened at this 2014 Festival of Dangerous Ideas Debate – to ensure that you understand just how pathetically ignorant you are on this and, probably, any and all topics.

‘They’ of course are the opposites of ‘We’. They are the sugar coated, candy canes of postmodernist sexuality, who are largely made up of middle class PhD students, transwomen and heterosexual Chippendales, who sell intimacy and affection and counselling and  legal advice and vegan recipes, to disabled virgins  and poor hen pecked husbands, who spend the rest of their money on keeping their hag like wives happy. Despite the fact that said wives purposefully had their own vaginas sewed up just to spite them. Bitches.

I’m being facetious now, of course. Bad form. This is a serious topic.

Of course in reality who ‘We’ are, is rather more difficult to define, as is the case of who ‘They’ are. If anyone has spent any time fingering around the debate, you’ll notice how easily permeable those membranes are, how quickly and efficiently those boundaries can shift. A Sex Worker Voice might not only be someone who works in prostitution or stripping or pornography or webcam modelling. It might become someone who runs a brothel, who manages a strip club or who directs porn films. It might be someone who has worked for twenty years, or only two days.

Contrary wise the person who works in the sex industry but hates it, and openly criticises it, might have their story nullified as a ‘lone voice’ whose bad experience is an anomalous misfortune; sad, but not really of interest.  A charity or advocate who has worked for decades with women, damaged and troubled by prostitution, is a pesky interferer, who cannot be trusted to account for themselves/herself as witness. A former prostitute can be disregarded, at best, because her feelings ‘no longer count’. At worst, her whole public character may be  ruptured by accusations of duplicity, fraudulence, bitterness or insanity.

The Sex Worker who has been a webcam model for six months may find her voice counting more, than a former prostitute who has been schlepping about in the trade ever since that hallowed time before you could buy soft pornography at Poundland. That brothel keeper’s convenient advocacy for that apex of hyper capitalism – the Mega Brothel – considered of more value and authenticity than the women advocating for exit services.

Indeed, this flighty and idiomatic phrase seems to me to be predominately used to shore up a person who has their cards in the full, absolute no questions asked or futures considered, profiteering decriminalisation hat, and to undermine anyone who has even the smallest shred of ambivalence. To reiterate, for actual prostitutes who might disagree, there will be found another little crack for them to be pushed down. Heck, I’ve been witness to debates where a bloke who ostensibly has no stocks in the pro-prostitution conversation (ostensibly being the key word) mouthing off unabridged, and yet anyone who voices concerns has their tongues snipped at the root. Perhaps he once took photographs of his girlfriend in her underwear and then showed his mates down the pub. Perhaps that makes him a sex worker?

Ultimately, people are not ideas, and it is intensely problematic to try and utilize them as such. Such orchestrations of protest, sit dubiously and dangerously atop the thin floor of purported  objectivity. We are so petrified to express, openly, ideology, notions of morality, codes of ethics and philosophical questions, in our neoliberal society, that we just pretend that they simply don’t exist. The pro prostitution protest has done a phenomenal  PR job of selling itself as ideology free, as supported by Sex Workers, who don’t just have insight but Absolute Authority. Statistics that support them are in service of The Great Truth of absolute, full decriminalisation and any statistics that problematize their view are the flimsy nay sayings of troubled and troublesome women whose predominate interest in prostitution is really about defending their husbands from temptresses. Whilst also, curiously, hating men.

But the pro-prostitution argument is ideological. And moral. And subjective, and so too are the opinions of those who flog it. In the end, prostitution is not simply a private matter – it is a matter of commerce and social policy,  and everyone to greater or lesser degrees has cause to take interest. Everyone has their say.

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Why I Still Support Corbyn, Despite Decriminalization


When I was kid, I remember the general adult riposte to my regular protestation ‘Its not fair!’ being, ‘Well, life is not fair.’ Yes, the superficial vein was (dis)honest cynicism, but the adage has a more profound subtext. And it continues to be the most important political lesson I have learnt to date.

Life is nefariously, continuously, and variously always unfair. How it is unfair, in what capacity and to what degree, changes with the tide, the generations, in line with political, social, cultural and technological shifts. Sometimes unfairness is beaten like a bass drum. Social hierarchy is not only forgiven but taken as an absolute, a natural state of affairs. Sometimes such unfairness is more insidious. Women gain access to the vote, but not to full political representation. People of colour can no longer be kept hostage as slaves but suffer residual discrimination and social brutality. Working class people are no longer openly discussed as being intellectually and morally lesser, but blind eyes are made of the fact that social mobility is basically a myth, and meritocracy is a thin plaster atop a ripped off extremity. No real bandage against the chronic blood spewing of infrastructural, socio-economic inequality.

As they say, the price of liberation is eternal vigilance. A useful philosophical nugget, attributed to everyone from the Buddha, to Lincoln, to Jefferson, it lucks in to something rather fundamental about political progressivism. That if I or you or anyone wants life for humans (and variably other species) to be as fair as it can be now and proceeding, I recognise that I am always have to deal with some form of base level unfairness and I am always going to have to make some compromised decisions. Political pragmatism is dealing with the world as it is, not as I would like it to be. It is as though I am in a boat that leaks from multiple parts of the hull, as I mend one, so too another rips open. To stay afloat, I must be forever on my guard, forever mending, fixing… forever aware of the rain.

What has all this to do with Jeremy Corbyn?

As you probably know by now, Theresa May has gunned for a snap general election, in order to solidify her position and increase the Tory majority. Though Corbyn has welcomed the decision, you don’t have to be a political analyst to come to the conclusion that the timing is not exactly great. That we on the left could’ve done with somewhat more of it to shake off the rabid assault by the Murdoch presses on Corbyn’s leadership.

But no matter. We who support the party will have to do our best all the same. However, for me, the Jeremy Corbyn leadership has caused a small amount of difficulty for altogether different reasons. I was enthused by his election, excited by the growth of the movement that came with him and angered by the immediate backlash of hot potato throwing that occurred, painting him as any form of unreconstructed evil that the right wing presses could concoct. But, along came a quandary.

I am feminist who has vociferously opposed the full decriminalisation, industrialisation and neutralisation of prostitution. Not long after Corbyn’s ascent however, it was revealed that, to that political analysis he was at odds. My disagreement with his support for a laissez-faire economic policy surrounding prostitution is not, for me, a minority political sidewinder, but a fundamental core of my own personal and political life. Deciding to support him and the Labour Party nonetheless, has not been an easy decision for me to make. Bitter pills have been swallowed. But ultimately I have swallowed them because I still believe that a Corbyn led Labour Party would do more for those in prostitution, long term, than the Tories would in any term.

The growth of the acceptance of the commercialisation of usually poor women’s bodies, is inexorably linked to the conservative orchestrated neoliberal project which combines firstly, cuts to social security and an ever growing bifurcation of boss and worker wage slips, with a boisterous and delirious form of cultural individualism. The latter adequately preventing the sort of collectivisation needed to tackle the former. The desire to industrialise the sex industry is not simply an organic reaction to such a context, it is also an extension of the project. Corbyn, of course, understands and wishes to tackle this first issue, even is it is true that he hasn’t fully made the connection to the second. So half baked as it is, this still means he supersedes Theresa May in my estimation, who both supports austerity measures and has been opposed to progressive industry sex critical legislations.

Added, Corbyn himself is contextualised by the fact that the most open and vocal political party critics of the sex industry come from within the Labour Party’s ranks, with affiliated organisations such as TUC Women supporting the Nordic Model. Even if Corbyn himself supports industry decriminalisation, the idea that it would become party policy any time soon, seems hugely unlikely. Much more unlikely that the damn near probability that the Tories will continue on with lawn mower austerity cuts that disproportionately affect women and place working class women in particular within prostitution’s avaricious sights.

This is a compromised position. I, as a left wing feminist, would love to see a party on the ballot that fully and energetically stood against austerity cuts and understood the fact that the sex industry sits on an axis of sexed and classed based oppression, which would only be cemented or even furthered by industrialisation. But I don’t have that; I have a party that has been smashing up the welfare state and is looking to further its position as our absolute overlords on the right, and a party that seems to have a discordant and difficult relationship in its discourses between socialism and feminism on the left, with some of it admirable feminists such as Harriet Harman having previously supported welfare cuts on the one hand, and some its admirable socialists, such as Corbyn supporting, sex industry profiteering discrimination on the other.

But I have no choice but to veer left, with my nose held closed and my eyes stretched open. That willingness to compromise is needed, as is that eternal vigilance, to not allow any of the holes in our boats go unattended. It does not seem like a fair choice. But then as any good working class women will tell you, life is indeed, unfair. And it is that fact that gets me up each and every morning.

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Keith Vaseline

Image result for keith vaz cartoon



When Keith Vaz was discovered to have sought to rent sexual favours from two migrant men (and seems to have offered to buy cocaine for them and poppers for himself) it disrupted the lukewarm response to the largely agreed upon modest reforms that the HASC suggested. It proposed a decriminalisation of soliciting (and thus of street walkers) and a wiping of the slate of prostitute’s criminal records. It was ground safely and stoically observed to be popular on all sides and thus, on its own, politically shrewd.

There were  critiques of its dismissal of the Nordic Model and its long term suggestion to consider industry decriminalisation, but in all, the response to the report was muted because the actual propositions, not its wider problems and suggestions, were uncontroversial. Seas seemed calm.

When Vaz was exposed, the sex industry lobby went into full flurry mode, because those within it knew that the rejection of the Nordic Model would be  newly viewed in relation to Vaz’s sex buying, from many quarters. Some sought to affirm that the report could still be credited, however the basis made for this is no more than the pro-industry and problematic ‘listen to sex workers’ rhetoric itself, which has little to nothing to do with whether or not there is a problem with an undeclared vested interest chairing the committee.

Some pointed out that Vaz has previously supported the Nordic Model, using pop psychology to play to the idea that he is some kind of Fred Phelps character, obsessing over the criminalisation of punters as a response to his own desire to rent people for sex. However – seductive and prime time American drama though that is – his support for the Nordic Model could hardly be described as consistent, obsessive or easy to pin down. In 2014 he sat on the APPG panel, where he was a non chair member in a group of 27, that proposed the Nordic Model. In 2016 he sat on the HASC panel where he was the chair member in a group of 11 that, indeed, more or less rejected the Nordic Model. What to make of that? Probably not much.

Of course Magnanti, and others, have sought to argue that Vaz’s  sudden change of mind, is a result of the virtuoso of her and other industry ideologue’s testimony. Even in arrogance, that seems rather a stretch.

It could  be more sensibly argued, as the others outside of the political debates surrounding prostitution have done, that Vaz is simply a duplicitous, slippery, megalomaniac character whose views, self presentation and position cannot be trusted.

How often has Vaz paid for sex? When did it start? Has he always supported the Nordic Model? Has he always not supported it? Has he seen it as politically advantageous to do so at some times and not at others? How much influence did he exert on both committees? Is he actually just some Trumpian figure who believes and cares about nothing other than his own career trajectory?  Is he  willing to oscillate wildly and quickly between different forms of policies or values because he  imagines, simply, that they won’t extend to him? Questions, questions – and if you care about Vaz with respect of details of this report – no clear answers.

In the end, it is not with respect to the sex industry only that this sticky business of  Keith Vaz, and his almost shockingly exquisite Janus Face, is so bothersome.

The general public – general as in of all political stripes and persuasions – struggles to trust politicians, doesn’t see them as honourable members of the community whose integrity and intelligence of vision can be seen to represent us or care for our needs. Perhaps, because they talk often about being in Power, not Political Representation. Perhaps also,  because of the perception of politicians as serpentine circumnavigators of  their own manifestos, whose game playing serves to undermine the whole concept of parliamentary democracy . You have to know  what someone believes, at least broadly, to  want to vote for them. To really want to vote for them.

If they’re outright bloody liars whose political capriciousness comes served with a personal side ordering of self gratification, self indulgence and scandal, they are not fit for purpose. Vaz’s duplicity, in and off itself, is what fundamentally unseats his position  as a public servant, an occupation paid up by the public purse. Some may argue that it is a private matter – an argument made ridiculous by the specifities of the case  – but this is also to ignore the position of politicians more generally. These are people paid handsomely, in taxes, well above the average earnings of a British citizen (not to mention the expenses and second homes) who require no specific qualifications or experience to do the job. You don’t have to be a saint, or a political hero. You don’t have to solve all the problems or fight a war (and win) or reclaim the Empire or Make Britain Great or any other of the egocentric fantasies that some of you politicians no doubt have.

You can just be honest, and vaguely consistent.

You are also not being asked to only drink green juice, forego gluten, never have sex,  get drunk, fart, have a predilection for Status Quo or The Wombles, never go on holiday, or ever again make a silly face lest it gets snapped and shoved up on Have I Got News For You for yucks.  You are just being asked – as  a representative of a wide variety of politically minded people – to avoid ethically and legally contentious behaviours and to Tell The Truth as you understand it.

Being a politician might be difficult, but it is still one of the greatest privileges that anyone can have bestowed upon them, and it comes with responsibilities and sacrifices. In order for our parliamentary democracy to work we need at least to vaguely trust in its operators. It does not instill much trust when a politician such as Vaz, can be found to be as trustworthy as cat with a goldfish, and yet still sweep in to the Justice Committee of all things, with 203 MPs agreeing to only 7 in dissent. That doesn’t sound like he is being made accountable.

Westminster, you need to pluck the bugs off of your salad bed, if you want us to eat it with relish.

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My Favourite – ‘International’ Cinema

Originally Published in the now defunct Subtitled Online

Image result for persepolis

International film, or world cinema, is largely a sort of genre category utilized by film distributors and retailers in Britain to designate non-British, Australasian and, more specifically, American produce. The category is loaded with notions of otherness and exoticism, political, racial and sexual complexity and, in many senses, the highbrow. In effect… international cinema holds a firm place in the populist, collective consciousness as inaccessible, designed for the subtle eye of the critical spectator and not for mass consumption, or ‘entertainment’.

In truth, many world cinemas, like Hollywood, have their own brands of majority produce, designed to satiate the audience’s most straight forward leisure needs. Bollywood, in India, is a notable example, for its gargantuan output of romantic musicals and historical epics. China also has a long history of family dramas and, of course, its martial arts Wuxia pictures, and Egypt was termed the ‘Hollywood on the Nile’ for its large yield of tragic, often female centred melodramas. These films are not, in the main, what immediately springs to mind when one considers ‘international cinema’. Often less exported and translated for the English speaking audiences, much of these various national cinemas are created for, and consumed by, the home audience. In this sense, then, no cinema is ‘foreign’ or ‘world’ until it is transported or translated. And that counts for Hollywood, too.

With that in mind, this introduction is mainly concerned with summarizing a diversity of international pictures currently absorbed by the English speaking audience in, most specifically, Britain. What carries a film here from Africa, Asia, the Middle East or the rest of Europe is dependent primarily on the funding capabilities of that particular nation. It will probably come as no surprise that Western European countries such as France and Germany have much greater financial muscle that many African countries, where little or no money for production and distribution is available.  Aligned with that, exhibition at film festivals, such as Cannes and Sundance, is often imperative in getting a film to reach a wider, international audience and thus engage critical notice. However, combined with marketing and distribution costs, entering films into festivals is an expensive business. Finance is one of the primary reasons why most audiences will have seen more Hollywood pictures then French pictures, and even discerning audiences will have seen more French or Chinese than African or Latin American pictures.

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All About My Mother

Western and Northern European cinema is often considered the apotheosis of cinema as ‘art form’ due to the reputation of past masters ranging from Vittorio De Sica, Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Andrei Tarkovsky, if one wanders as far as Russia. However, long after these cinema deaths, the legacy of the European masters continues with the camp and burlesque melodramas of Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, 1999), the often sexually bleak dramas of Lukas Moodysson (Lilya 4 Ever, 2002), the controversial experiments of Lars von Trier (The Idiots, 1998) and the psychological thrillers of Michael Haneke (Funny Games, 1997).

Veer to the Middle East and cinema production seems to be most heavily concentrated, contemporarily, in Iran. In the last two decades, the country has been responsible for a plethora of both male and female cinema authors, dealing often in the socio-political tensions of the age, to critical acclaim. Abbas Kiarostami, in particular, established a strong reputation with acclaimed pictures such as A Taste Of Cherry (1997) and Ten (2002). Aligned with this, a high percentage of female filmmakers’ projects have been exported. Samira Makhamalbaf, for example, has told the stories of Iranian and Afghani women in films like Apple and At Five In The Afternoon (2003). These socio-realist films are also complemented by films like the internationally successful Persepolis (2003) by Marjane Strapi, a darkly comic look at a woman coming of age during the Iranian revolution.

As mentioned, African films have struggled to find finance and, as such, much of its international head rearing has been intermittent. In the Northern country Tunisia, Moufida Tlatli,  achieved a hugely positive critical reception with Silences Of The Palace (2004). The film, about servant women prostituted in a Bey palace, demonstrated the relationship women have with nation, as representatives of nation. Travel further south to Senegal and you will find two of Africa’s most well renowned directors. Djibril Diop Mambety (Touki Bouki, 1973) and Ousmane Sembene (Borom Sarret, 1963) both dealt, in their differing ways, with the social traditions and tensions of Senegal, the hierarchies and sexualities of its people, and the corruptions of government.

Into East Asian and an eclectic diversity of film practice. Park Chan-wook has cultivated an aura of brutal creativity with the martial artistic The Vengeance Trilogy (2002-2005) and the vampiric Thirst (2009). Much less brutal, Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films are slow and idiosyncratic, using themes of nature, sexuality and spirituality, in pictures such as Blissfully Yours (2002) and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010). In Taiwan, Tsai Ming-liang has been lauded for his brave employment of slowness and sparse dialogue in Vive l’Amour (1994) and What Time is It There? (2001).

Some Latin American works, in Mexico in particular, have amassed large, global audiences. Alejandro González Iñárritu gained popularity with, what could be called, ‘gritty’ and complex narratives, in Amores Perros (2000) and 21 Grams (2003). After these films, Babel (2006) completed what has become known as his ‘Death Trilogy’ – a film that incurred Academy Award success and belongs in the pantheon of global narratives, telling its story in Japan, Morocco, Mexico and the USA. Outside of Mexico, Fernando Meirelles drew British attention to the early mortality of the gangsters of the Brazilian favelas in the hugely acclaimed, MTV style film  City Of God (2002).

What is evidenced from this brief compendium is the English speaking audience’s proclivity for International films with political narratives. The inequities between men and women, between rich and poor and, specifically in Tsai Ming-liang’s films, between heterosexual and homosexual, and the anxieties that arise as a result, are common across the films mentioned. However, if one were to watch all these films, what would also be evidenced are the vast differences in the aesthetic and narrative qualities across, and within, nations. There is a heterogeneous miscellany evidenced between East Asian brutality or slowness, Senegalese casual performance, Iranian social realism and Latin American MTV culture creativity.

So, as suggested, International or world cinema is not a coherent category, but exists in terms of its opposition to the national product, in the first sense, and the commercial product, in the second. Once they manage to surpass the financial difficulties, in particularly in the instances of the developing nations, their ability to capture an audience’s attention comes from their artistic, cinematic handling of human difficulties that are both specific to nation, as they are also, transcendental across place and time. The troubles of women in Tehran, recall the upheavals of the Western feminist revolutions, and the poverties of the urban classes of Brazil echo the kitchen sink realism of 1960s British cinemas, and the trials and traumas of the working classes detailed therein.


Five of my Favourites

Pedro Almodovar, All About My Mother (1999)

In many ways, the Spanish auteur’s most highly considered film, All About My Mother is often credited with being a goal post in Pedro Almodovar’s creative maturation. The film retains the kitsch camp of his earlier works, but extends itself more fully in to the melodramatic.In a sense the film is not simply all about the mother, but all about the feminine and the performative nature of contemporary women-hood in Spain.


Marjane Strapi, Persepolis (2007)


A modern animation classic if there ever was one, Marjane Strapi’s adaptation of her own autobiographical graphic novel helped translate the dilemmas and tensions of the Iranian Revolution to the wider audience.Helped along with the vocal talents of legendary French actor Catherine Deneuve and her daughter Chiara Mastroianni, Persepolis looks at the growth of girl torn between her country’s conservative values, and the more liberal values of her parents.


Moufida Tlatli, Silences Of The Palace (1994)


Image result for the silences of the palace (1994)

Moufida Tlatli’s film, a rare success for the North African country, traverses the decade before and after colonial Tunisia.Young Alia (Hend Sabri) is the daughter of a servant in a Bey palace. Unable to receive any formal education, and watching her mother, Khedija (Amel Hedhili), having to submit to servitude and sexual exploitation, the future for Alia looks bleak. However, in this reflective film, there is an aura of optimism for the emancipation for, not just women, but women as emblems of the Tunisian nation.


Tsai Ming-Liang, The Wayward Cloud (2005)


Image result for wayward cloudCherry picked out from the Taiwanese director’s oeuvre to demonstrate the true eclecticism of foreign pictures, this tale of love in the pornographic age has the capability to shock (possibly rather, surprise) even the most blasé cinema spectator.Set amidst some outré musical numbers and set pieces, often involving watermelons, Tsai Ming-liang’s exercises his common themes of sexual, romantic and familial repression.


Fernando Meirelles, City Of God(2002)


A good starting point for anyone unfamiliar with non-Hollywood produce, this Brazilian film from Fernando Meirelles harnesses the visual techniques of the music video – in a similar style to Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie – to tell its tale of corruption and violence in the Brazilian slums.When other young men around him are turning to cocaine dealing and gun toting, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) has dreams of becoming a photographer to make his escape from poverty and early death.

Why No Punter Movement?


How important are punters in informing the prostitution culture and ergo, the culture at large? Why are they so often silent in populist realms or debates? Bar of course, the occasional cycloptic fella with some ostensible measure of practised eccentricity – such as the guy who graced Rupert Everett’s flimsy shocku ‘Love for Sale’ – to tell of his shrugged belief that a prostitute shouldn’t enjoy the sex, if she is getting paid for it. Or George Mccoy, the man who tramps around brothels in search of freebies, in exchange for a section in his weather worn ‘guide books’. Lazy grey face, slicked with sleaze and topped off, like a rotten cherry, with a flat cap. These men are so beyond social expectations that they  have nothing to lose by being openly vile. They may even imagine themselves to be mavericks. Everett certainly does.

But silent of course, does not mean inactive. Punters, or Johns, are the sex industry’s largest component, its most thriving eco-culture, and in this respect most appropriately to be likened to pond life. Their punters’ forums – spilling what would embarrass even the most prolific of back room bar banterers and locker room fabulists – are their breeding ground, where they learn how to be good at renting women.

You’ll notice, if you have the requisite stomach to trawl through their darkened corridors, dripping, as it seems to me, with the viscous goo of thousands of women forensically dissected,  that they are seldom frequented by happy, sexy couples, or vibrant young women who enjoy renting vagina… just as much as the next middle aged, married, middle class man. Just another one of those fanciful Mills and Boon fantasies that keeps many a liberal ‘sex work supporter’ going until dinner.

Other than the odd woman, long entrenched in the prostitutional game and daily asking herself the questions, how low should I stoop? How many of these digital feet should I kiss to cream off enough business to stay afloat? Or: how long have I been so enmeshed in this wacky and unedifying imbroglio that I cannot see myself as anything other than in relation to it? I am what the punters want, I am what they don’t want… what else am I?

I can’t be a kind feminist and ignore these posturings so as to avoid infantilising or drawing attention to the rituals of humiliation that are required of prostitutes who use punter forums as a form of advertising, because it is an archetypal aspect of the industry. A salient example of what the punters want; slavish servitude. Often entailing ‘calling out’ other prostitutes for being ‘bad’ at service, and back patting the punters during their relentless and petulant tantrums, wailing that they didn’t get what they thought they deserved. The women that are not good enough for these man children are as equally enthusiastically torn to smither by their fellow ladies; “Look how on board I am fellas!”

Is it just for the money, or is it also the yucks? We are taught to see our value in terms of how men see us, and in relation to other women. Good old prostitution; providing a breeding ground for our most neurotic of gendered complaints.

Don’t be fooled by those who say at least prostitutes don’t barter with their minds, it is one of the reasons, I believe, they are often so convinced of the definite wrongness of the Nordic Model. Why, the dogmatic belief that to criminalise punters is to criminalise them. Punters, collectively, are their husbands, their patriarchs, their patrons. To them they owe not only an hours access to their internals, but their political and social loyalty.

But this  commitment? It is not reciprocated.

Where is the punter movement? Why does it not speak its name? Why does it one not arise and task itself with the battle against the Nordic Model (now increasingly gaining European ground)? Punter forums are extremely popular. The two most utilized in the UK average collectively over a million and half views per month, on average. One would think even some small subsection of these febrile webrats would develop a political identity.

But no. Even when the Nordic Model has been  suggested or implemented,  punters have not rallied around each other and defended, even under internet Avatar, in any kind of collective, their right to rent women. In France there was small murmur from so called ‘male intellectuals’ who penned their names to the letter entitled Keep Your Hands Off Our Whores. But the rule was proven by the exception.

Of course, it wasn’t quite the message the ‘sex workers’ movement’ had in mind; Selma James, former agitator for the so-called English Collective of Prostitutes*  wrote an op-ed for The Guardian, at once trying to criticise the Nordic Model itself, as well as this small, unusual display of punter will. She couldn’t quite fandango it. Writing, “The men, in the usual self-referential terms, defend their own rights as clients, not women’s rights as workers. Nevertheless it’s about time men admitted to being clients. But next time they should first check with the workers they are claiming to support, what they are proposing to say.”  Silly Selma, thinking punters give a hoot about the velvet pockets of the poor women they seek to plough. Thinking they cloven cries represented the slightest concern for the so called ‘sex worker’ cause. As one punter notes, gracefully, on a popular forum,

“(The Nordic Model) is perverse. And interesting that it’s mainly women who promote this idea. More evidence that the female brain doesn’t have much logic about it. Nor do they have much idea about the opposite gender – no surprise there.If paid sex wasn’t available, then there wouldn’t be any consumers. So the logical thing is to go for the source of availability. Especially because that is where the money is being made i.e. incentive. So why criminalise the consumers and not the suppliers?”

Or another, concerned about the calamitous workings of the (non)prostituted:

“Another unwelcome consequence of this legislation, if it is introduced, is that punters will suddenly become sitting ducks for blackmail. Of course, they are potentially vulnerable now – greedy prostitute discovers where punter lives and that he is married, and threatens disclosure to the wife. In practice this is pretty unlikely. Why would a prostitute want to kill the goose that is laying golden eggs? I suppose high profile celebrities are marginally more vulnerable to blackmail now, if they use prostitutes. But if this Nordic model is introduced where to punt is to break the law, many a prostitute and/or her pimp will be unable to resist the temptation to threaten disclosure to the police unless money is handed over. The consequences of being turned over to the law could be horrendous. If found guilty, a substantial fine, no doubt or even prison. The marriage destroyed. Possible loss of job. Many a punter, faced with this situation, will pay up rather than face the consequences of exposure.”


Poor punter. Indeed men’s right to rent women is so important, that women’s political emancipation should be taken very seriously lest it laces the debate, as another opines,

“I’m all for equality, but this does go to show that if you give women too much power they come up with some crackpot ideas. ”

You see Selma?  That punters don’t feel remotely as if they owe anything to prostitutes in terms of support for their rights or safety, shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone with half a cent of sense… who is not entrenched in absolute denial or high faluting hokum. They have paid for what they have wanted and they have gotten it! You have already given away your chips! You have nothing more to bargain with!

Indeed, as most are so bloated with misogyny and whore hatred, if they did deign themselves to organise they would be nothing but an impediment to the happy hooker cause, as Selma herself discovered. But if they are lacking in cunning and politically inclined (or simply cannot help themselves) they might slink about betwixt the legs of the damsels of the Twitterati, proclaiming their unerring belief in women’s volition whilst fervently denying having ever paid for sex. Even these hapless Geres cannot bring themselves to a place of honesty, so they flounder about.

So how do we explain all this? Some ‘Sex workers’ unrequited loyalty to punters? Low expectations?

Prostitutes, and most certainly those women who, for whatever reason, have decided to support a cause that in no way furthers themselves other than in their own minds (superficial empowerment, intemperate volition, presumed social status) like many of us, often suffer from cognitive biases, such as anchoring. Anchoring occurs when humans develop a specific focus on one aspect of information with regards to a subject, that is often developed initially and is subsequently difficult to shift. We often decide that punters are Not Bad People, but we do this on shallow grounds. Even not especially decent, empathic, considerate, moral people have the capacity to be polite, even convivial. I recall a Louis Theroux documentary when an active, virulent leader of an acutely racist subculture of America, had a ‘pleasant’ domestic attitude to his Latino neighbour; a man who unfortunately regarded this deeply corrupted, evil – not to mention spineless man – as a good friend.Heck, even Ted Bundy could be amenable when he needed to be.

Indeed, though prostitutes can be victims of violent attacks, it is in the most case, the average married, middle aged, occupationally successful man’s interest to at least be passingly courteous to prostitutes, because they want to get what they want without too much bluster and fuss. Or risk. Even a wife beater or a bank robber will be occasionally soothing to their victims if they think it serves their purpose. And unlike these, punters already have prostitutes by the scrap of the neck; unless they have an overt desire for performative sadism, managing a smile and having passing conversations about the weather, or some such, is no great shakes.

And as is consistently demonstrated by punters forums, the guys are able to smile, and say hello and use base level manners when with prostitutes, but often revert to calling us fat, ugly, stupid whores who, being intellectually, morally and temperamentally faulty, are their rightful resource, as soon as they are amongst themselves.

Yes, just as the wife who clings to the memory of her husband back when he bought her gifts and sung her praises – before he began carpentering the shape of his fist in to her face – prostitutes often chose to see the vague friendliness over the unwanted pulling of the hair, the thwacks to the buttocks and the nasty reviews they receive when they are not ‘up to scratch’. Indeed, over the missing voices of punters, as they clamour for social respectability, or the very occasional outings from men who make it clear that their rights to fuck are what they really care about. Not their safety or the soundness of their security.

They go to bat for them because they have the capacity to be cordial. Are these the terms? Perhaps it is also the effect of mere exposure; they know these people, so, like loyalty to a cruel and selfish family member or a corrupt nation, they see them as their duty to defend. It is prostitute to punter Patriotism.

If someone attacks our nation, we are similarly attacked, even if our nation does not care for us at all.



* The ECP’s are, we are told a prostitute collective, but its policy is to not declare the backgrounds or occupations of its members, which ostensibly, is reasoned in order to protect those women in prostitution who do not want to be ‘out’. Their primary political campaign is for the decriminalisation of prostitution profiteering. I’ll just leave the two and two out there for whoever wants to make four.


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Inculcated Women

You might know (and if you don’t I’m going to tell you) about gendered social propriety.

There are these codes of behaviour that have been laid out across the board-walk of human history, and are arranged to denote and differentiate between presumed appropriate, near unqualified, rungs of human hierarchy. The least subtle of these, of course, is the differentiation with which we codify, ‘intrinsic’, male and female behaviours.

We are supposed to be living in a post-feminist age, but when I stroll around any modern urban centre I can find dresser loads of young females wearing pleated skirts and hair bows and sugar pink lip tints and suffering from bouts of, what can only be described as, chronic and uncontrollable coquetry. Or I look online at women making fondant fairy cakes or engaging in a bit of weekend ‘web cam’ work as their alter egos Tattooed Tasmania or Babe Barbarella or Slutty Savant.


I love catcalls. I love car toots. I love random men smiling “Hello beautiful!” like my mere presence just made their day. I like being called “princess” and ignoring them as I giggle inside. I like being eye-fucked on the escalator and wondering if I’ve just made him spring a boner. That eye-fuck, by the way, is an age-old mating signal. I live for it. – Paris Lees


OK its hipsters. Hipsters do Ironic-Gendered. Satire-Gendered. Its-OK-don’t-panic, its-middle-class-and-I-have-a-Liberal-Arts-degree-Gendered. Obviously, more traditional ‘feminist staples’ such Battered-Wife-Can’t-Find-a-Refuge-Gendered is harder to bludgeon through the pomo irony prism. And make cute. Ah yes even as our every feminist cause has suffered an Invasion of the Neo-liberal Body Snatchers – Gender Affectation, Prostitution and Pornography have all become Feminist Empowerments – giving domestic violence a bit of fresh, zing and kudos has yet to be tried with success (though I’m sure there is someone out there somewhere, working on it.)

Yes, women playing being Women and men playing being Men is all well and good in do-goody, we shall Remain, young, middle class circles.  Gender is all fun and games at this point. When it is making cupcakes or taking naked selfies. Less so when it is cooking dinners, on demand, for cold, hard husbands or giving blow jobs in exchange for crack, on cold street corners. Sex subjugation is all fine ‘in theory’ until it becomes, awkwardly, not so fine ‘in practice’. The seeming fact that the pretty face of one excuses the desperate face of the other – dilutes the political conscious needed to tackle to the other – we shall, for the moment, under rug sweep.

But these shifting, external escapades of gendered submission seem to be make-up on top of more peremptory behaviours. Manners, mannerisms.
Still now, in these snowflake or hipster circles, men sit with their shoulders either feverishly upright, or casually slumped over like dropped cushions. They stretch their arms out, and scratch wildly at their hair and beards; they sit with their legs spread, and if they do cross them, they snap fold them at the point of the ankle, with their thick booted feet dangling over their lofty thighs. They are both decidedly purposeful, and ostensible aimless, in gesture and manner.

Their woman friends, who have dispensed with the aprons and the blow dry and sets, nonetheless maintain a cautious, delicate, attractive manner. Yes, of course, what with now being liberal and fancy free, they might dye their hair amusing colours and occasionally ape codified ‘male behaviours’ to demonstrate how footloose they are, but the necessitation of the feminine prevails.

Men still orientate the conversations, decide on what is thoughtful or funny and give cultural weight to what is musically, artistically or sportingly valuable. They can’t laugh heartily at women’s jokes, only snidely, and if a woman is considered ‘as intelligent as a man’ it is for them to decide, to delineate. Even if she suffers from Beauvoir levels of sharp, men with brains of cottage cheese can pat themselves on the head for noticing a Woman Thinking, and therefore maintain the entitled sense that they get to decide when and how such an accolade can be distributed.

If men don’t think something is clever, funny or interesting then it is de facto not clever, funny or interesting.

If a woman is considered highly youthful and attractive, she may temporarily, superficially and cautiously break these rules.

When I was young I didn’t get them at all. I didn’t even notice that they existed. Yes I did all those proverbial things; climbed trees, buried treasure, fought imaginary pirates, told jokes loudly and officiously to my classmates, decided to ignore the fact that I needed a piss because what I was drawing, reading, writing was just too interesting, and having pissed pants were preferable to giving up my attentions.

I once found a pornographic magazine in a bush (appropriately) and it contained on the first page, a woman with a long, erect penis. I just assumed that I would grow one, one day. As I would also grow a big pair of plastic tits.

When I got older, and developed through adolescence, I started to realise that I was wrong. Not IT was wrong, but I was. There was something fundamentally broken about me; I developed a desire for men, as I had an annoyingly, at least partially hetero sex drive, but I tried to arrange those interactions on my terms, which didn’t work. (Probably because I did not actually know what those terms were).

I was like a plant growing in a dark room, yellowed, spindly, scratching around for droplets of light. I became distorted, confused, angry.

Eventually I decided to capitulate. To attempt at being attractive and palatable, as a means of getting on, more seamlessly, with the world. I started dressing in more conventionally ‘feminine’ ways, powdering my newly concubine face and – worst of all – minding my manners.

But it didn’t really work. That little girl in the pits of my brain became belligerent. She wanted to run, shout, laugh, ball, think, create, write, invent, not slice herself into this onerous and reductive costume of femininity for the disappointing reward of faint praise. But as I was fully inculcated and utterly unwilling to conference with her, it came out in odd fashions.
The make up of a child falls into two major manifestations; the child is creative, learned, scientific, enthusiastic, unabashed, open and without bigotry. The child is also selfish, self-gratifying, tormented by their lack of will and freedom, disregarding of others and spoilt. When the former manifestation cannot find a premise or expression, the latter will rule.

This paradigm of resentful fear, self imposed subjugation and ultimately, toxic femininity, is destroying feminism.

I can see it in those women who watch their every image step whilst trying to ban feminists from speaking at Universities. I can see it in those women, so fearful of being called transphobic or whorephobic or something phobic, they will kick out, sometimes, extraordinarily vituperatively, at any other female who does not get in line. I can see it those women who pester themselves endlessly with neurosis about pronouns and other social policing, whilst the women’s refuge movement is quietly being burnt to the ground.

Angry, fearful, infantile, bullying.

Noble political warriors they are not.

These modern women, who are pretty and bellicose, made-up and drunk, clean eating and self sickening – who are ostensibly free and increasingly trapped – are today’s inculcated women.